Non-Destructive Testing — turbo-charged career training that pays off

Two men holding testing equipment

Non-destructive testing (NDT) involves inspecting something to ensure its integrity in a way that keeps the object being tested intact. It might be as straightforward as a visual examination to detect signs of wear and tear, but more advanced NDT methods are needed to make assessments and find faults or flaws internally.

Technologies such as ultrasonics, radiography, magnetic particle inspection and liquid penetrate are some of the standard non-destructive testing methodologies used across multiple industries today. These are more or less the same processes that NDT pioneers used to confirm the structural integrity of things like cannon barrels and steam engines in the early 1900s.

“The foundational principles behind NDT methods, and the application of the methods themselves hasn’t changed all that much over the years,” said Jason Butz, an instructor in SAIT’s NDT program. Having worked as an NDT professional for the past 25 years, he’s got a front-row perspective here. “What’s changed is the technology and the enhanced capabilities of the testing equipment used.”

The reach of possible NDT applications has evolved a lot too. Technological innovation introduces an expanded environment of tools, parts and equipment in need of testing. That, combined with increased safety requirements, increases in insurable assets, and greater regulatory oversight means demand for NDT professionals is growing across a broad spectrum of industries — from manufacturing, automotive and aeronautics, to construction and oil and gas.

“We’re still pretty heavily driven by the oil and gas industry here in Alberta, with a strong preventative maintenance focus right now,” says Butz. “But other areas are hiring too. Construction, for example. Anything that’s lifting a load like cranes and forklifts needs to be certified and is subject to regular inspections.”

Based on the variety of employment opportunities and work environments available, the relative ease of entry into SAIT’s NDT Foundations program, the multiple advanced certifications available and corresponding successive pay hikes — this really is a great career option for anyone, whether they’re just starting out or looking to change jobs mid-career.

The 15-week NDT Foundations certificate program is for those interested in full-time, in-person study prior to securing employment in the field. Alternatively, students can pursue the continuing education route, taking the one-week NDT Materials and Processes course (asynchronous online study) and related NRcan exam. Upon successful completion of this prerequisite, they can follow up with individual courses (each just one or two weeks long) to build their knowledge, skills and related certifications one course at a time.

“It’s a really fast track to make really good money,” said Butz. “Those who work hard and secure additional certifications in the various areas of NDT can do incredibly well. Some people are making six figure salaries within two years of getting into the industry.”

NDT professionals are the last line of defence before something goes into — or back into service.

“This is an important role with lots of responsibility. It’s meaningful work and there’s definitely a pride factor involved.”